A military dog has finally reunited with his Marine partner thanks to a flight attendant!
Boone, a black Labrador Retriever, was Sgt. Andrew Mulherron’s first canine partner. They met in 2009 in Virginia, where they trained together before being deployed to Afghanistan.
The Marine never forgot his four-legged battle buddy.
Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune
Mulherron and the explosive-detection dog hunted for roadside bombs. On their first combat tour, Boonehad 11 confirmed IED finds and the partners received a Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
On Thursday, the Marine and his beloved canine partner reunited at Twentynine Palms when Mulherron returned from Iraq. It had been 5 years since Boone and Mulherron last saw each other but the bond between them endured.
“He still looks young,” Mulherron said, beaming as he watched the trim canine scamper around.
As Boone’s first handler, Mulherron has first dibs on adopting the Labrador dog after he retired from military service this month.
According to Marine Corps tradition, Boone outranks his handler in a sign of respect for the dog.
Prior his return to California Boonestayed in Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. The journey was long, but the Labrador arrived safe thanks toflight attendant Molli Oliver and a Vietnam War-era Marine dog handler Dan Miller.
Miller was the battalion adviser who paired Mulherron with Boone. While serving as a Marine Scout Dog handler during the Vietnam War, his dog was put down after their 1969-1970 tour, like all the other war dogs in those days.
Miller never got over it.
“This haunted me for years, knowing I left my dog to such a fate,” he said.
In 2002, Miller tracked down his war dog’s bloodline and bought a fifth-generation dog from the same kennel.
“That dog healed a deep wound,” he said. It also inspired him to help Mulherron reconnect with his dog.
Boone and Mulherron were partners in both battle and life. Mulherron loved Boone’s work ethic and fun attitude.
When not working, he says Boone is a champion dirt roller and ball fetcher.
“Me and Boone from the get-go just had a connection,” he recalled. “We were a great team and we got stuck together. Probably the best thing that happened to me.”
In 2010, Mulherron and Boone found dirt roads and paths riddled with explosives in Garmsir district.
“That was a tough year, a tough deployment. It was hard on Andrew, but Boone helped him get through it. They lost a lot of friends,” said his mother, Nuala Mulherron.
The Labrador helped and saved all of them and Mulherron always remembered him.
“Me and him, we were always out front sweeping the roads. Everybody loved him, everybody trusted him. He had quite a few confirmed finds,” Mulherron said. “I remember every one of them.”
After their deployment, contractors were waiting for Boone when their C-17 landed in California. Mulherron only had a few minutes to say goodbye to his partner.
“He had a hard time giving him up. They were together almost two years,” said his father, John Mulherron.
After that, the Labrador was again deployed to Afghanistan with another Marine. Then he was enlisted in the Army as a search-and-rescue dog, after the IED Detector Dog program ended.
Mulherron deployed to Afghanistan and acouple more times.
“Anytime he’d meet another dog, he’d say, ‘Oh, he doesn’t compare to my Boone.’ Everybody got sick of hearing about Boone,” his mother told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Even though he’s a big bad Marine, he’s got a soft heart when it comes to the dog. No one is supposed to know that.”
While on a United Airlines flight in April, Mulherron started chatting with flight attendant Molly Oliver, who mentioned her work rescuing dogs. During the conversation, Mulherron shared that he was trying to track down Boone.
“I’ll go get your dog, “Oliver told him.
“I was just empowered by this Marine and his love for the dog,” she said.
After spending about $1,400, making several trips to visit Boone in Fort Leonard Wood and reuniting another military dog with his former handler, Oliver brought Mulherron’s canine partner to California.
On October 5, she signed the paperwork at Fort Leonard Wood to discharge N787 — the action number tattooed on Boone’s ear.
The dog-loving flight attendant flew him to Northern California, cuddled in a Marine Corps blanket.
“Once a Marine, always a Marine,” she said.
When Mulherron stepped off the bus at Twentynine in Palms, the dog seemed more interested in his ball.
“It’s been three years since he’s seen me, so I think it’s going to take a minute for him to recognize me. But I’m pretty excited,” Mulherron said.
After a few rounds of fetch, Boone and Mulherron were a team again. When the Marine grabbed his heavy ruck sack and walked away, Boone followed.
After almost eight years in the Corps, Mulherron is thinking whether it’s time for him to retire, too.
As for Boone, “he’s done his time,” he said.
When Boone arrived at the Mulherron residence in the Bay Area, the black Labrador quickly became buddies with yellow Labrador Major, who is a rescued puppy mill survivor. In return, Major is teaching Boone to ignore loud noises, which put him on alert like many combat veterans.
Source: San Diego Union-Tribune